A New Jersey priest has joined with an atheist group in a lawsuit against a Catholic bishop in Brooklyn. Together they are seeking to have the Church’s tax exemption removed because Bishop Nicholas Di Marzio may have “subtly” endorsed a political officeholder.

Oddly, this isn’t the first time Fr. Robert Hoatson is suing the church. But let’s deal with this lawsuit first.

Here’s the press release from NYC Atheists:

Charging the Catholic church with making Robo-calls during the last election subtly backing the candidate picked by a politician who had done favors for the church, New York City Atheists Inc. is suing the church, Bishop Nicholas Di Marzio and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

NYC Atheists is suing on separation-of-church-and-state grounds, pointing out that the Catholic Church receives tax exempt status as a non-profit and therefore must follow the terms and conditions of the Internal Revenue laws and the U.S. Constitution which prohibit a 501C non-profit organization to advocate, promote, advertise or endorse any particular candidate.

A little ironic that they’re arguing for the separation of church and state while they’re asking for the state to have the right to take money from the church. Maybe they don’t know what separation means.

Now, while I don’t like that Bishop Nicholas Di Marzio made those robo-calls he likely didn’t endorse anyone. The press release from the atheists even said that the priest “subtly” endorsed. Subtly?

And nobody involved in the lawsuit has actually heard the call. The whole thing is based on a report in the New York Times. Fr. Hoatson even admits he’s never even heard the robocall. Nor has the President of NYC Atheists, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

The anger over the calls seems to be directed at the fact that the call thanks Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the county’s Democrat Party boss for his support of the church by opposing legislation that would give alleged sex-abuse victims more time to file old claims.

Fr. Hoatson and the atheists are saying this was political backscratching at its worst. And on that point they might be right. But the fact of the matter is that the bishop likely didn’t officially endorse Lopez by publicly thanking him for his vote.

But Fr. Hoatson has seemed to make quite the practice of suing the archdiocese of New York. He sued Newark Archdiocese, Archbishop John Myers, the New York Archdiocese, Cardinal Edward Egan, the Albany Diocese, Bishop Howard Hubbard, and others a few years ago claiming that he was harassed for being outspoken against the abuse of children by priests.

Just last month that lawsuit was thrown out of court, according to a media release dated last month.

In 2005, the Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Newark called Fr. Hoatson a “troubled individual” who makes “preposterous” allegations to “draw attention to himself.”

I fear that it wouldn’t appear things have changed.